Banker Boyz Blues

In Miami it is not considered polite or politic to criticize resident and former governor Jeb Bush, whose entire career was fueled by the mad housing boom and its campaign money that is now crashed to cinders. Bush spoke in Chicago last week  to the Mortgage Bankers Association annual convention.

These days, the speechifying of Jeb! can be interpreted for the direction of the Republican message machine. What was reported was that Bush urged the audience to climb out of their fetal position and go on the offensive. “Who better to advocate a policy to get us out of this mess?” Bush implored the same businesses that shipwrecked the economy on the reefs from which scavengers now ply their trades.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their taxpayer trillions, sent nearly two hundred fifty executives to Chicago where they rubbed shoulders with the same mortgage rating agencies and mortgage execution companies that used speed in execution as the housing market inflated and speed in execution as the housing market collapsed to “move product” while tens of millions of Americans suffered the consequences. Speed in execution means diminished or eviscerated regulations; one of the GOP’s chief goals whether for the environment or for zoning and development.

Jeb Bush is an elder statesman in the Republican Party these days. Why, is a mystery. On the other hand, who can deny the magic tricks at the heart of American politics tied to campaign finance that Bush mastered and re-materialized as the destruction of so much equity and hope. That is what the Occupy Wall Street’ers in Manhattan, Miami and elsewhere are protesting. Corporations are too powerful. Corporations are NOT people. But Jeb Bush (and his chosen presidential candidate, Mitt Romney) believe otherwise, with the US Supreme Court at their backs.

“Business has gotten way too timid,” said the former governor whose first consulting contract was with Lehman Brothers, the biggest pusher of mortgage derivative debt to the state of Florida. Bush continued with the banker boyz in Chicago, “The natural inclination is to cover. I would encourage you to stand up.” Stand up to the protesters, hinted Bush without also mentioning that between Enron and Lehman, his appointees cost Florida and money held in trust for policemen, firemen, and state and municipal employees nearly a billion dollars.

There is where the 1933 inaugural speech of Franklin Delano Roosevelt can be mashed with the Wall Street whiners and the renewed competition for its campaign cash by both Democrats and Republicans. Roosevelt, speaking to America at the height of the Depression, condemned an earlier generation of bankers; “Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.”

It bears pointing out that the same protections advocated by Roosevelt and built up through the safety net protecting banks, American business and consumers are the target of the GOP, now swept up in a kind of madness aimed against the victims. It is partly President Obama’s fault– he neither presided during the incipient stages of the housing bubble nor had the acuity to understand the nature of its creators — that he cannot say today as President Roosevelt did then, “The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization… there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.”

In Chicago, Jeb Bush faced the money changers and what he told them was in effect; put more tricks up your sleeve, more pigeons to fly from top hats, more beautiful women to saw in two, to materialize wholesome and Christian with the swipe of a magic wand.

Magic tricks like this: “One of the things that we’ve got to do is to address problems straight on and deal with them in a way that helps us meet goals. And so I want to talk about … one goal and a problem. The goal is, everybody who wants to own a home has got a shot at doing so… And so what are the barriers that we can deal with here in Washington? Well, probably the single barrier to first-time homeownership is high down payments. People take a look at the down payment, they say that’s too high, I’m not buying. They may have the desire to buy, but they don’t have the wherewithal to handle the down payment. We can deal with that. And so I’ve asked Congress to fully fund an American Dream down payment fund which will help a low-income family to qualify to buy, to buy. (Applause.) … (the problem is) that the rules are too complex. People get discouraged by the fine print on the contracts. They take a look and say, well, I’m not so sure I want to sign this. There’s too many words. (Laughter.) There’s too many pitfalls. So one of the things that the Secretary is going to do is he’s going to simplify the closing documents and all the documents that have to deal with homeownership.” (Bob Martinez, then secretary of HUD, would soon become a US Senator from Florida succeeded now by Jeb Bush protege, Marco Rubio.)

Those words, from a June 2002 speech by President George W. Bush,  inspired the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. At the time Jeb Bush was governor of Florida, the same Jeb Bush who says, though a dismal decade has passed, that what is hindering the economic recovery are “regulations” and that the banker boyz need to get up out of their Fox Holes. Occupy Wall Street, take note.

Alan Farago is conservation chair of Friends of the Everglades. He can be reached at: afarago@bellsouth.net


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Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

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